Controlled Burn Continues to Rise From the Ashes at the Phoenix Theater

Controlled Burn began life at Patrick’s Cabaret in 2016. When the venue closed in 2018, they entrusted the project to 20% Theatre Company.

Named for the practice of burning a prairie to promote new growth, Controlled Burn is a space for queer rage, revolution, and reclamation, aimed at regeneration.

20% Theatre Company Controlled Burn Program

Essentially Controlled Burn is a cabaret act that runs for three nights, each night there is a different lineup. The show is curated by Taja Will, Ondine, and Marcela Michelle, Artistic Director of 20% Theatre Company. Since each night will feature different performers doing their own original pieces there is little point in describing each act. You will not see those; you’ll see different acts during the last two nights. Instead I want to give you an idea of the types of things you can expect. First off let me say that the quality is a little all over the board, but all of the acts I saw had merit, and none of them were deserving of being left out. The key with this type of show is you are seeing multiple short acts, so even if you don’t like one, it will not last more than 20 minutes tops and you’ll be onto a different performer. Besides if you are coming simply to be wowed I think you are missing the point. You hopefully will be wowed – I think that’s our hope every time we head out to the theater. But you should be going to this show to hear these unique voices expressing themselves through their art. You should be going to show support for people who are using art to share their experience with others.

The first performer was Snem DeSellier whose act was titled Vibratory, it was a combination of movement and a monologue, which seemed part poetry part guided meditation. Act 2 was by Maitreyi Ray and was a video titled Blue accompanied by a poem but also some dialogue, it was very non-narrative. Third up was Stephanie Maari Booker and her futuristic narrative monologue Adjudicated. Then we had HANE who sang and danced and vamped his way through four songs. Finally, There was Jasper Rubin Hardin. You know how I commented that we always hope to be wowed, well this was the one that wowed!. They performed a poem titled The Six Genders of the Talmud. This refers to the Jewish text called the Mishna, which identifies six genders. Hardin’s poem covers the six genders, and as the father of a transgender, gay son, I heard a lot of my son’s journey reflected in the words. It also illustrated in a new light some of the aspects of his journey that I felt I understood, in an new, fresh way. It deepened my understanding of the challenges my son has faced. This was a very powerful piece and they delivered it with a palpable courage that stunned me with awe.

I highly encourage everyone to get out and see Controlled Burn it runs through February 15th for more information and to purchase tickets go to